The American writer and literary scholar André Aciman was born in 1951 in Alexandria, Egypt. He comes from a family of Sephardic Jews of Italian descent and grew up in a multilingual environment in which French was the dominant language. Although his family was spared the expulsions from Egypt in the mid-1950s, nine years later the anti-Semitic and anti-European policies of then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser led to his family’s expulsion, which led Aciman and his family to move to Italy when he was 14. At the age of 17, he went to New York, studied at Lehman College, and received his masters and doctorate from Harvard University. He became Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Princeton University, taught at Bard College and afterwards at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. As a literary scholar, he focused on 17th-century French literature and researched Marcel Proust and modern French memoir literature.
In 1995 he published his memoirs »Out of Egypt« for which Aciman received the Whiting Writers’ Award. In it, he returns to the time when his family had to leave Alexandria and combines personal history with the political upheavals of that time. The result is not only an impressive childhood narrative rich in characters, but also a contribution to the cultural study of Jews living in post-colonial Egypt. In »False Papers« (2000), which shows Aciman as a stylistically confident essayist and travel writer as well as a Proust connoisseur, he portrays cities of his exile, starting from Alexandria and moving through Rome and Paris and finally to New York. In addition, the motif of the loss of one’s homeland and one’s sense of belonging as well as the insatiable longing for a place where one currently is not can be noticed here. Aciman has also published four novels to date. »Call Me by Your Name« (2007) describes a love affair between two young men in Italy in the 1980s. Looking back, Elio Perlman, who now lives in the USA, tells how, at the age of 17, he fell in love with the family’s summer guest, who was seven years his senior. The novel, which was filmed in 2017 by Luca Guadagnino, received an Oscar for best adapted screenplay. »Aciman’s first novel shows him to be an astute grammarian of desire« (»New Yorker«). Aciman’s most recent novel »Enigma Variations« (2017) also deals with the fragility of gender identity, the shallowness of passion, and the mysteriousness of one’s own self.
Aciman’s essays have appeared in various newspapers and magazines such as the »New York Times«, »The New Yorker«, »The New Republic« and »The New York Review of Books«. He lives in New York.